Apple and Ireland Win €13bn State Aid Appeal
The General Court of the European Union has today annulled the Commission’s decision regarding two Irish tax rulings in favour of Apple. The Commission had considered that the two rulings constituted State Aid, granting Apple €13bn in unlawful tax advantages.
The annulment of the Commission’s decision was on the basis that the Commission had failed to meet the requisite standard of proof. In that regard the outcome is similar to the Court’s rejection of other state aid decisions.
While accepting the Commission’s argument that an OECD arm’s length test was an appropriate tool to assess profit allocation (notwithstanding the absence of such a test in the national law at the time) the Court has concluded that the Commission has failed to prove that profits should have been allocated to the Irish branches. The Commission also failed to show that the tax rulings in dispute were methodologically unsound or the application of discretion.
The Commission will have the ability to appeal this decision to the Court of Justice however, the nature of these findings may make appeal on some of the issues difficult.
The decision is very helpful to those taxpayers in the UK who are affected by the Commission’s decision to regard the partial and full exemption of non-trading financing profits as state aid. The nature of this ruling, consistent with other similar outcomes annulling state aid decisions in the Belgian Excess Profits and Starbucks cases, challenges the Commission’s approach to the UK provisions which assumes that those provisions produce an advantage generally to all taxpayers benefiting from them. Rather, the Court has now consistently required the Commission to prove an advantage in specific cases. The “one-size-fits-all” approach to state aid appears, at the level of the General Court at least, to be precarious.
For those interested in the UK financing profits state aid case, a virtual seminar is being arranged to discuss recent developments and issues which have arisen from HMRC’s collection activities. Please contact Michael Anderson if you would like to attend.
SHORT CASE REPORT FTT DECISION – ‘MTIC’ FRAUD – KITTEL TEST PTGI International Carrier Service Limited v. HMRC  UKFTT 20 (TC)
- A so-called “MTIC case”, in which HMRC alleged knowledge or means of knowledge of fraud. The taxpayer, PTGI, denied those states of knowledge. After a relatively lengthy trial, the Tribunal allowed the appeal of PTGI.
- The decision represents a good reminder that HMRC’s “MTIC” decision-making mould is not a “one size fits all”, unbeatable formula at the Tribunal. The Tribunal will robustly analyse HMRC’s (usually) inference-led allegations.
HMRC consultation on the OECD mandatory disclosure rules
HMRC has published a consultation on draft regulations to implement the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) rules on mandatory disclosure of certain avoidance arrangements. Helen McGhee and Nahuel Acevedo-Peña explain the background to the new rules and their implications.
Post-Prudential: Decision released by the FTT
On 8 December 2021, judgment in the Post Prudential Group Litigation was handed down by the First-tier Tribunal (Tax Chamber) (“FTT”). These were appeals and applications for closure by approximately 200 taxpayers, who had made a variety of claims seeking repayment of unlawful DV tax imposed on dividends received from foreign portfolio holdings. The FTT considered the validity of these various statutory claims following decisions in test cases in the CFC & Dividend GLO, namely Claimants in Class 8 of the CFC and Dividend Group Litigation v Revenue and Customs Commissioners  EWHC 338 (Ch),  1 WLR 5097 (“Class 8”) and Prudential Assurance Co Ltd v HMRC  UKSC 39;  AC 929 (“Prudential SC”).
S&S Consulting Services (UK) Ltd v HMRC: Can a company be re-registered for VAT pending appeal?
On 26 November 2021, the High Court of Justice issued its judgment in S&S Consulting Services (UK) Ltd, R (On the Application Of) v HM Revenue and Customs  EWHC 3174. The case concerned the issue of availability of injunctive relief in the context of VAT deregistration appeals in the First-tier Tribunal (“FTT"). S&S also made an application for judicial review of HMRC’s decision to deregister it for VAT, which at the time of the hearing, had not yet been considered on the papers.
HMRC cancelled S&S’s VAT registration because it concluded that the company had been principally or solely registered to abuse the VAT system by facilitating VAT fraud. S&S denied any wrongdoing and claimed that it might become insolvent before the hearing of its appeal as a result of the deregistration.
It was also common ground that although S&S had lodged an appeal to the FTT, the FTT had no power to require HMRC to re-register S&S by way of interim relief pending the outcome of the appeal. S&S made an application to the High Court for relief.
Held: Application rejected.
VAT De-registration: the CJEU decision in the Promexor case
On 18 November 2021, the Court of Justice of the European Union (the “CJEU”) delivered its judgment in Case C-385/20 (Promexor Trade SRL v Directia Generala a Finantelor Publice Cluj – Administratia Judeteana a Finantelor Publice Bihor). Promexor is a Romanian company whose VAT number was revoked by the local tax authorities following a period of six months in which its VAT returns did not record any transactions subject to VAT. Under Romanian legislation, a company whose VAT number has been revoked could re-register and retroactively deduct input VAT for the period when it was not registered. However, in this case, Promexor was prevented from doing so because its director was also a shareholder of a company that was going through insolvency proceedings.